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Should your customers be able to cancel online?
18 August 2011, by , in Executive, Marketing, 6 comments

Working with a client recently, I was surprised to learn that the association allows individuals who are currently registered for an upcoming event to cancel online. That is, the customer could go online, login, find their meeting registration, and cancel the meeting registration.

Their process is then to review the cancellation and refund the registration fee minus a standard processing fee.

In the past, I’ve always told my clients not to allow any cancellations online. If someone wants to cancel their registration, make them call in, help them understand what the cancellation fee is (if there is one), and ask them if you can keep their payment “on credit” to be used later. All of this is to do what we can to keep their money.

But as I thought more about it, it struck me that perhaps we SHOULD allow attendees to cancel online, even to the point of automating the cancellation process, such that the cancellation occurs with a proper deduction for the cancellation fee, and the registration fee is refunded to the credit card it was purchased on. No staff involvement required. It seems to me this is much more customer-focused.

What do you think? Should we allow the entire cancellation process to happen online with no staff intervention? Or should we make the customer jump through a few hoops?

About author:
  • From an iMIS perspective I have my clients create a cancellation function for refund tracking. As I think about this more, you can usually cancel online orders (from Amazon, Lands End, etc.) For a period of time. So yes, I think it is a good idea. Think I’d want to included a “Why canceling” field.

  • Wes Trochlil

    Hey Michelle, thanks for the comment. Yes, the “why canceling” field is a good idea.

  • The answer is clear to me if the association is member-oriented: the member should be able to cancel online without jumping through hoops or waiting on hold to talk to someone. Do what’s best for the member. However, I like your ideas about making the fees very clear and giving the member an option to use that credit for an upcoming event instead. This gives the association an opportunity to provide compelling descriptions of those events and make a sale instead of losing one. I love it when an online transaction can read my mind by giving me options I hadn’t considered.

  • Wes Trochlil

    Good thoughts, Deirdre. Thanks for commenting.

  • Wes,

    I agree with the above comments. It is quite clear that making a cancellation (or a return of a product like a book) difficult doesn’t stop the member/customer from doing this but simply makes it less likely for them to do business with you in the future. If you think about one of the reasons that Amazon succeeds (and in the bricks and mortar world, places like Nordstrom’s) is that their return policy is so customer friendly. Members have clearly shown associations they want as much self-service as possible. This varies a bit based on the demographics of the member population in each association, but the trend is very strong. The major players in e-Commerce have set the standard and if an association doesn’t provide ease of use to their members, they are making a major mistake in my view.

    Amith

  • >>>The major players in e-Commerce have set the standard…

    This is dead-on, Amith. All of our members are customers/consumers first, which means their expectations are set by consumer sites. Unfair? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter to them.

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